I’m Not Okay with Chris Brown Performing at the Grammys and I’m Not Sure Why You Are

Editor’s note: Today (May 5th) is Chris Brown’s birthday. This piece was one of the most popular in our history and we want to memorialize his birthday by reinforcing a message we believe in.

I’m sick and tired of people acting like it’s no big deal that Chris Brown will be performing at the Grammys.

I’m frustrated that the mainstream media is covering this story like it’s any comeback story, like an exiled prince’s return to a former glory, like this is another political timeline — as though some rich and powerful old white men in the music business have not just issued an enormous ‘f**k you’ to every woman who has been, is or will be on the receiving end of domestic violence.

We should be furious.

Why aren’t we?

A Long, Long Time Ago, or Three Years Ago, But Who’s Counting?

For those of you who are currently listening to ‘Look at Me Now’ and wondering what the big deal is, a quick recap: The night before the Grammys in 2009, Chris Brown got angry at his girlfriend, Rihanna, and he took it out on her face. She went to the hospital and then to the LAPD, where this photo was taken and promptly leaked to TMZ. (The LAPD issued a stern statement on the leak, threatening penalties “up to and including termination”. TMZ reportedly paid $62,500 for the photo.)

Both Rihanna and Brown had been scheduled to perform at the Grammys the following evening. Neither did.

Instead, Chris Brown turned himself into the LAPD at 7 pm, was booked on suspicion of criminal threats and was released on $50,000 bail.

Then the Internet exploded.

I was a full-time entertainment writer at the time, so I had a front-row seat to the action. This is what I expected: I expected a string of celebrities to comment on how horrific this situation was, how sad and angry they were for Rihanna, how domestic violence is unacceptable in any context, how as a nation we need to condemn this and condemn it loudly.

Instead, Hollywood went silent and, when they did speak, they teetered on the brink of defending Chris Brown.

Carrie Underwood: “I don’t think anybody actually knows what happened. I have no advice.”

Lindsay Lohan: “I have no comment on that. That’s not my relationship. I think they’re both great people.”

Nia Long: “I know both of them well. They’re young, and all we can do is pray for them at this point.”

Mary J. Blige: “They’re both young and beautiful people, and that’s it.”

Jay-Z, one of Rihanna’s mentors, spoke up: “You have to have compassion for others. Just imagine it being your sister or mom and then think about how we should talk about that. I just think we should all support her.”

In a sane world, Jay-Z’s statement would sound insane. Why would he have to remind his fans to support Rihanna after what happened is that she got hit in the face?

Jay-Z issued that statement because the Internet was, in early February 2009, engaged in a very serious conversation about whether or not all of this was Rihanna’s fault. In fact, large segments of the Internet had devoted themselves to making Rihanna the scapegoat for any woman who ever had the gall to do something worth getting hit, and then the cloying self-esteem to go to the cops about it. Bloggers and their commentators flocked to Chris Brown’s defense in droves. It was a full-blown tearing-down of female self-worth, an assault on any progress women have made in this country in the past 200 years, and the mainstream media ignored it.

It horrified me. It still does.

Later in February, a photo of Brown riding a jet ski in Miami hit the Internet, and singer Usher was caught on video commenting on it: “I’m a little disappointed in this photo,” Usher says in the video. “After the other photo [of Rihanna’s bruised face]? C’mon, Chris. Have a little bit of remorse, man. The man’s on jet skis? Like, just relaxing in Miami?”

The backlash was so severe that Usher was later forced to publicly apologize.

“I apologize on behalf of myself and my friends if anyone was offended,” he said. “The intentions were not to pass judgment and we meant no harm. I respect and wish the best for all parties involved.”

The message we sent to young women was unmistakable: You are powerless. You are worthless. You will be a victim, and that will be okay with us.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=553690152 Madison Zraick

    Agreed. It’s not right and it is a big deal. This needs to matter to people.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=516195042 Jennifer McIntyre

    I totally agree. I have boycotted anything Chris Brown since this incident. I don’t understand the entertainment industry just brushing it off and allowing him to continue to have a career. I equate it to a child doing something they aren’t supposed to and the parent laughing as they say “Oh, don’t do that.” It’s not funny, it’s not right, and it shouldn’t be happening. Will I watch the Grammys? Yes. Will I change the channel when they announce Chris Brown’s performance? Absolutely.

    • http://www.facebook.com/donjetaa.C.B Donjetaa Rbd

      So Fuckk yalllllll

    • http://www.facebook.com/melodicchaotic Michelle Donovan

      I’ll never watch the Grammys again. I mean, I’m sorry, but to me personally I am not willing to give my viewership to an awards ceremony run by people who apparently think THEY were the victims of this asshole hitting his girlfriend in the face. I have a huge problem with that, and if anything has cemented my opinion that the Grammys are about nothing more than record sales (god knows they’re not about talent), then this is it. I won’t support the Grammys in any way, shape or form from now on.

  • http://www.stilljennifer.com Jennifer Still

    The whole thing is, it’s not as if he’s ever shown any remorse, save for the ‘apology’ he gave months after the event which he was pretty much force-fed by his publicist. In addition, he’s continued to have violent outbursts, both homophobic and anger-related. Lest we forget the time he threw a chair through the windows at Good Morning America, ripping his shirt off like the Incredible Hulk when walking out the door because they had the nerve to ask him about hitting Rihanna. He’s also engaged in gay-bashing debates with one of the members of B2K, making fun of his apparent rape by the group’s manager on Twitter, among other incidents. He’s a disgusting human being, frankly, and I can’t believe any woman wants to be with him.

    I also don’t get how any mothers allow their teenage daughters to purchase his music and go insane over him like he’s the second coming. Way to teach your kids that domestic violence is okay, as long as someone is rich and makes catchy songs! “Team Breezy”, my ass.

    • http://www.facebook.com/t.simone.denn Tiffany Dennis

      Are you expecting a personal apology or something…he didn’t do anything to you. You don’t know how he feels. Did you talk to him when it happened…no. You just sat on the couch eating your bag of chips watching E news and getting some partial Hollywood story. Boo!!!

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=509041028 Dakota Katherine M. Lloyd

        Are you a Chris Brown fan or something? I know I for one wasn’t sitting watching E! news, I was contacting my local radio stations, asking for them to boycott his music until he apologized. He has continued to be verbal abusive to other women on twitter. He IS a bad role model for the kids/teens of today.

  • Molly Franken

    I went into this piece thinking, ‘Enough already’. I don’t want to read another bit on Chris Brown or his constantly swirling controversies. But, I read it. And I’m glad I did. What a smart, fierce and necessary message. Sasha, thank you for articulating what women around the globe are truly worth.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=798440053 Ashley Wilson

    Thank you so much for making the point that so many people have glossed over. Whether or not a celebrity relationship is our business (it’s technically not, in my opinion), if the media chooses to acknowledge the abuse, to then excuse his vile behavior is unthinkable.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=759104898 Emily Losey

    Thank you for this! I literally gasped when I read the quote from Ken Ehrlich and I’m appalled that people aren’t enraged by his statement that HE was the victim in this situation. To me, it seems like such an obviously ignorant statement and I hope that others will begin to recognize that. I too hope that Chris Brown is a changed man, but unfortunately his past is not erased. Furthermore, on the larger scale, domestic violence in America goes unnoticed and is not discussed often enough which just gives victims the feeling of being completely alone in the matter.

    Again, thank you for this post! I’d love to see more like it on HelloGiggles, which is my site :)

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=759104898 Emily Losey

      My favorite site *

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=2028364 Cecilia Amador

    Loved your post. I was just thinking the same thing.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=9101386 M.C. Silver

    Thank you so much for writing this post. Usher was right in pointing out that Chris Brown has not showed any remorse, so why are we somehow “supporting’ his “comeback”?

  • http://www.facebook.com/marcelle.karp Marcelle Ruby Karp

    Gawkers headline a few days ago: Chris brown to celebrate abuse anniversary by performing at the Grammys

    Thank you for this post.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=65800494 Meredith Bagdazian


  • http://www.facebook.com/amor.crespo Amorette Crespo

    thank you so much for being the voice of reason and using your platform to say what the rest of us are thinking!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/danielascrima Daniela Scrima

    It really sends a message, not just the message “it’s okay to hit women” but you can still totally be the man, Chris Brown, and have a great anniversary where everyone claps their hands for your performance. He should have to perform with that photo as his back drop instead of dancers. I wouldn’t expect him to turn a performance down, but you’d expect more from the people putting this together.

  • http://www.facebook.com/INTJadis Simon Delott

    Every time that something positive or supportive of Chris Brown shows up in the Trending Topics, I feel outrage. I do not understand why anyone at all would like him, but I CERTAINLY do not understand why people putting together an event would even CONSIDER inviting him. Domestic violence is evil, and our world is full of it. We should show that someone who has committed such a heinous act can never, ever be tolerated or accepted, ever again. Otherwise, the message conveyed is a disturbing one.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1304280451 Holly Harris Scheer

    I totally agree with your post. It is outrageous!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/TRUCHAaaaa Stormaggedon Ozymandias

    I agree , this makes me so angry , we should not let this issue go , it was and it is a big deal.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1202111753 Stef Williams

    Chris Brown is going to perform on the Grammys because people will be angry about it and will talk about it prior to and afterwards for weeks. Also, there are a whole lot of people in the world who simply do not care about the situation and never did. Rhianna secretly dated him after “the beating her ’round the world” and has been linked to him in recent months. If we all stop talking about him and all of the other crappy celebrities out there who don’t deserve to be famous for being crappy people, they might slowly begin to disappear.

    Also, Lindsay Lohan’s opinion on any matter besides cocain, booze, jail and horrible career choices, doesn’t matter.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1474200029 Sara Troupe

    this article made my day. thank you for writing this.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=265501282 Natalie Borriello

    I could write for years about how absolutely fantastic this post is but you have already put it so well…I applaud your voice! I wrote a similar post at http://bellaluna.blogspot.com but seriously on behalf of women everywhere…thank you

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=265501282 Natalie Borriello

    I could write for years about how absolutely fantastic this post is but you have already put it so well…I applaud your voice! I wrote a similar post at http://miabellaluna.blogspot.com but seriously on behalf of women everywhere…thank you

  • http://www.facebook.com/msfefebaby FeFe Monroe

    Hollywood is obsessed with what other people SHOULD do. Everyone knows that what he did was wrong. But you can’t hold this dark cloud over his head for the rest of his life. All Chris Brown can do is move on with the rest of his life and you guys are acting like he should just quit his career and disappear. So far, he hasn’t gotten into any more arrests, he doesn’t do drugs, and he is still making great music. What else do you want him to do, die? Even Rihanna forgave him. Just move on, this whole HATE CHRIS BROWN shit is beyond tired

    • molls

      Yes, I can hold a dark cloud above his head his whole life.

    • http://www.facebook.com/dasha.briqueleur Dasha Briqueleur

      Wanna bet? I’ll hold a dark cloud over him as long as I please. He’s never been sorry for what he did, he’s never sought help for what he did and he’s not making great music and never did. And even if he was, it’s not a get out of jail free card. People were more mad at Michael Vick, and Vick showed contrition and apologized for what he did. I don’t know why you think that people who beat their girlfriends should be forgiven because you’re sick of people hating on them.

    • http://www.facebook.com/jellenporter Jenn Porter

      If he had been a normal, average, every day guy… he would have to give up his career and hang his head in shame for life. That’s what abusive people get to do. She forgave him because of her preconceived notions of him before the event. That she had loved him. He should have to give up his life, like every other man that abuses a woman or child should as well.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=599044281 Heidi Mijatov

      You know, this whole HATE WOMEN shit is tired. Let’s get *that* fixed, and then I’ll think about possibly caring about an abusive, unrepentant man-boy who throws violent, hateful, dangerous tantrums when he doesn’t get his way.

    • http://www.facebook.com/stepharchie Stephanie Archibald

      I’m sorry, he doesn’t do drugs? You’re putting the crime of drug taking on the same level as domestic violence? I would have a lot more respect for him if it was just drugs.

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